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What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is inflammation or infection of your sinuses. It is most often caused by a virus. Acute sinusitis may last up to 12 weeks. Chronic sinusitis lasts longer than 12 weeks. Recurrent sinusitis is when you have 3 or more episodes of sinusitis in 1 year.

What increases my risk for sinusitis?

  • Medical conditions, such as an upper respiratory infection, allergies, asthma, or cystic fibrosis

  • Dental infections or procedures, such as gum infections, tooth decay, tooth removal, root canal, or a tooth implant

  • Abnormal sinus structure, such as nasal growths, swollen tonsils, or a deviated septum

  • A weak immune system, from diseases such as diabetes or HIV

  • Smoking

What are the signs and symptoms of sinusitis?

  • Fever

  • Pain, pressure, redness, or swelling around the forehead, cheeks, or eyes

  • Thick yellow or green discharge from your nose

  • Tenderness when you touch your face over your sinuses

  • Dry cough that happens mostly at night or when you lie down

  • Headache and face pain that is worse when you lean forward

  • Teeth pain or pain when you chew

How is sinusitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. He will check inside your nose using a nasal speculum. This is a small tool used to open your nostrils. You may need the following:

  • A sample of mucus from your nose may be tested to see what germ is causing your infection.

  • A CT scan , or CAT scan, is a type of x-ray that takes pictures of your sinuses. The pictures may show if you have abnormal sinus structure, growths, or sinus disease. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is sinusitis treated?

  • Decongestants relieve nasal and sinus congestion. Ask before you give this medicine to your child.

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Liquids will help loosen and drain the mucus in your sinuses.

  • Breathe in steam. Heat a bowl of water until you see steam. Lean over the bowl and make a tent over your head with a large towel. Breathe deeply for about 20 minutes. Be careful not to get too close to the steam or burn yourself. Do this 3 times a day. You can also breathe deeply when you take a hot shower.

  • Rinse your sinuses. Use a sinus rinse device to rinse your nasal passages with a saline (salt water) solution. This will help thin the mucus in your nose and rinse away pollen and dirt. It will also help reduce swelling so you can breathe normally. Ask how often to do this.

  • Use heat on your sinuses to decrease pain. Apply heat for 15 to 20 minutes every hour for as many days as directed.

  • Sleep with your head elevated. Place an extra pillow under your head before you go to sleep to help your sinuses drain.

  • Do not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information about how to stop smoking if you need help.

How can I help prevent the spread of germs that cause sinusitis?

Wash your hands often with soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diaper, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms get worse after 5 to 7 days.

  • Your symptoms do not go away after 10 days.

  • You have nausea and vomiting.

  • Your nose is bleeding.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have vision changes, such as double vision.

  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.

  • You have a headache and stiff neck.

  • You have trouble breathing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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